Archive for the ‘Braves/MLB’ Category

The Braves used to be able to hit. What the heck happened?

A sight seldom seen of late: The Braves scoring a run. (AP photo by John Amis)

A sight seldom seen of late: The Atlanta Braves scoring a run. (AP photo by John Amis)

We begin by saying that no one regular-season series tells anything approaching the whole story. Remember when the Braves were swept by the Yankees here in June? Remember how that series seemed an example of boys against men? Well, if you check today, you’ll find that the Braves have a better record than the Bronx Bombers. (Only a half-game better, but still.)

That said, it was nonetheless chilling that the Braves could go the final three games of a four-game set against Colorado and not score a single earned run. The Rockies have the worst team ERA in the big leagues, and here, after a 6-1 victory on Labor Day, is how the Braves fared: Shut out on Tuesday, won 1-0 on a run scored via a bad throw on Wednesday, won 1-0 on a run scored on a flubbed return catcher’s toss by the pitcher, which might have happened in the big leagues twice in the past two decades.

For the first half of the season, …

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Credit the Braves for this: They didn’t hire Bobby Valentine

A regional cover of this week's Sports Illustrated.

A regional cover of this week's Sports Illustrated. Rather evocative, eh?

Even as the Braves tease/torment us with the possibility (remote though it would seem) of another Epic Collapse, we can take solace in this: As frustrating as they can be, they’re not the Red Sox. Because the Red Sox took their own E.C. of last September and proceeded to destroy themselves.

They changed general managers. More to the point, they changed managers and hired the absolute worst man for the job, and not a day passes that Red Sox Nation isn’t given a new reason to realize that any organization that employs Bobby Valentine is doomed.

A manager must be able to lead men in the pursuit of a common goal. Bobby Valentine can only lead men to want to get as far from Bobby Valentine as possible. If there’s a bigger phony in the world, it’s only because this is a mighty big world.

He cannot bring himself to shut his month, and whenever he opens it, trouble follows. Valentine defenders — actually, the …

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Video: For the Braves, is just making the playoffs enough?

Continue reading Video: For the Braves, is just making the playoffs enough? »

What we learned from the biggest week of the Braves’ season

J-Hey by the bay: Four games, three home runs. That'll do. (AP photo)

J-Hey by the bay: Four games, three home runs. A good weekend's work, I'd say. (AP photo)

It started badly and could have spiraled into something far worse. The Braves played seven road games — three on one coast, four on another — against two division leaders, each possessing the kind of starting pitching that can make a good team look bad.  If there’s to be an Epic Collapse II, it figured to start here.

But it didn’t. The Braves lost the first two games in Washington to fall seven games behind the Nationals, and they also lost the first two in San Francisco. But they somehow went 3-4 and drew within 4 1/2 of first place, having gained a sliver of ground in the season’s most difficult week. And now the Braves have 34 games remaining, 28 of those against sub-.500 teams, and they’re 2 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis for the first wild-card spot and four games ahead of Los Angeles for the second.

In sum, they’re in good shape. But they were in good shape last year, and they went …

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Heat Check: Braves aren’t hot, but they’re getting warmer

From bullpen to bellweather: Give that man (Kris Medlen) a great big hand. (AP photo)

From bullpen to bellwether: Give that man (Kris Medlen) a great big hand. (AP photo)

College football commences this week, with the NFL not far behind. Even so, our Heat Check begins with baseball.

BRAVES: A key week opened badly — the Braves lost the first two games in Washington to fall seven behind the Nationals — but ended rather better. The Nats dropped their next four, and the Braves won three of five to draw within 4 1/2 games. Better still, they won’t face another opponent that is currently above .500 until Sept. 14. Heat Index: Can’t really call a losing (3-4) week hot, but it could have been much worse.

SIX-MAN ROTATION: Well, that didn’t last long. Ben Sheets is on the disabled list, which is where Braves pitchers who stop pitching well land. So now there’s no real debate over who should be sent to the bullpen. Heat Index: This means Tommy Hanson will apparently stay in the rotation, which might not be a great thing. He has worked as many as six innings only once …

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Video: On the Braves, Dan Uggla and the big Nats series

This video chat was taped before Game 2 of the Braves’ series in Washington. The Nationals would take Tuesday night’s game 4-1 behind Stephen Strasburg.

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Why the Braves’ 13-inning loss to the Nats gives me pause

The happy Nats after unleashing their winning barrage of infield hits. (AP photo)

The happy Nationals after unleashing their winning fusillade of infield singles. (AP photo)

I’m on record as believing the Braves are a very good team, and I’ve been around long enough not to overreact — or at least to try not to overreact — to any single regular-season baseball game. (They play 162 of them, after all.) That said, a couple of things about last night’s loss in Washington bothered me.

They bothered me because they fly in the face of what I’ve come to believe — and, truth to tell, what some in the Braves’ organization have come to believe — about this team vis-a-vis the Nationals. I (and certain Braves folks) believe the local nine is better than Washington everywhere but in the starting rotation, and here let’s concede that starting pitching has an outsize importance. And that’s the root of my unease.

The Braves and Nationals were tied at 4 by the top of the fifth inning. Jordan Zimmermann, the Nats’ starter, was gone after five. Tim Hudson was pulled after six. …

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Heat Check: Matty Ice starts hot; Ben Sheets begins to cool

Ben Sheets after yielding the second of four home runs. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Ben Sheets after yielding the second of four Dodger home runs. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Our weekly Heat Check commences where you’d expect, although falling five games behind the team you’re chasing does tend to lower any case of pennant fever.

BRAVES: They’ve lost only two of 12 series since the All-Star break, which is good. Less good is this: They haven’t won a series from a team that is currently above .500 since June 26-28, when they took two of three from Arizona.

Dropping the final two games of the Dodgers series only served to underscore a sore point: The Braves are 26-30 against plus-.500 opposition, and they’re 10-20 against teams that are leading divisions. This week they’ll play three games against Washington and four against San Francisco, and they’re 5-10 against those two.

That said, the September schedule is, to borrow a line from the great Joe Dean Sr., as soft as church music. Heat Index: So long as the Braves don’t go 1-6 these next seven days, they should …

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GM Frank Wren on the 2012 Braves: ‘We can go all the way’

This is how it ended in 2011. It'll be better this time. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This is how it ended in 2011. It'll be better this time. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

We start with the obvious: Yes, the Braves are in great shape, but they were in great shape a year ago and collapsed in a heap. They awoke Saturday with the same record (70-49) as they held after 119 games in 2011, and then they owned a six-game lead over St. Louis and San Francisco for the one and only wild-card berth.

This year there are two wild cards, and the Braves led Los Angeles by 5 1/2 games for the second WC entering Saturday night’s game at Turner Field. And they were 3 1/2 games closer to the first-place team in the National League East — Philadelphia last year, Washington now — than in August 2011.

Baseball Prospectus gauges the Braves’ chances of making the 2012 playoffs at 96.7 percent. So, to put it bluntly: Unless this team authors a flop of historic dimensions for the second consecutive year — and what are the odds of that? — it will qualify for the postseason. And what’s …

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Numbers give Braves edge over the Nats in … baserunning?

"Even when I'm 40, I'll have better wheels than you, Rochy." (AP photo)

"Even when I'm 40 years old, I'll still have better wheels than you, Rochy." (AP photo)

There’s a metric for everything in baseball. The fun ones are those that tell us something we might not have known just by using our eyeballs. Here, courtesy of an ESPN Insider post by Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus, is a key reason why the Braves might just overhaul Washington to take the National League East.

The Braves are very good at running the bases. The Nationals are not.

From Lindbergh:

Baseball Prospectus offers a stat called baserunning runs, which measures the number of runs a player adds or subtracts by advancing more or fewer bases than expected given his number of opportunities. The Braves and Nationals couldn’t be further apart on the BRR leader board. Atlanta is baseball’s best baserunning team with 13.7 BRR, while Washington is the worst with -14.9. The Braves have been almost four runs better than the next-best baserunning team, while the Nats fall a full …

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